History of RWTH Aachen University
On 25 January 1858, prince Frederick William of Prussia (later German emperor), was presented with a donation of 5,000 talers for charity, raised by the Aachener und Münchener Feuer-Versicherungs-Gesellschaft, the precursor of the AachenMünchenerinsurance company. In March, the prince chose to use the donation to found the first Prussian institute of technology somewhere in the Rhine province. The seat of the institution remained undecided over years; while the prince initially favored Koblenz, the cities of Aachen, Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf also applied, with Aachen and Cologne being the main competitors. Aachen finally won with a financing concept backed by the insurance company and by local banks. Groundbreaking for the new Polytechnikum took place on 15 May 1865 and lectures started during the Franco-Prussian War on 10 October 1870 with 223 students and 32 teachers. The new institution had as its primary purpose the education of engineers, especially for the mining industry in the Ruhr area; there were schools of chemistry, electrical and mechanical engineering as well as an introductory general school that taught mathematics and natural sciences and some social sciences.
The unclear position of the new Prussian polytechnika (which officially were not universities) affected the first years. Polytechnics lacked prestige in society and the number of students decreased. This began to change in 1880 when the early RWTH, amongst others, was reorganized as a Royal Technical University, gained a seat in the Prussian House of Lords and finally won the right to bestow PhD (1898) degrees and Diplom titles (introduced in 1902). In the same year, over 800 male students enrolled. In 1909 the first women were admitted and the artist August von Brandis succeeded Alexander Frenz at the Faculty of Architecture as a "professor of figure and landscape painting", Brandis became dean in 1929.
World War I, however, proved a serious setback for the university. Many students voluntarily joined up and died in the war, and parts of the university were shortly occupied or confiscated.
While the (then no more royal) TH Aachen (Technische Hochschule Aachen) flourished in the 1920s with the introduction of more independent faculties, of several new institutes and of the general students' committee, the first signs of nationalist radicalization also became visible within the university. The Third Reich's Gleichschaltung of the TH in 1933 met with relatively low resistance from both students and faculty. Beginning in September 1933, Jewish and (alleged) Communist professors (and from 1937 on also students) were systematically persecuted and excluded from the university. Vacant Chairs were increasingly given to NSDAP party-members or sympathizers. The freedom of research and teaching became severely limited, and institutes important for the regime's plans were systematically established, and existing chairs promoted. Briefly closed in 1939, the TH continued courses in 1940, although with a low number of students. On 21 October 1944, when Aachen capitulated, more than 70% of all buildings of the university were destroyed or heavily damaged.
After World War II ended in 1945 the university recovered and expanded quickly. In the 1950s, many professors who had been removed because of their alleged affiliation with the Nazi party were allowed to return and a multitude of new institutes were founded. By the late 1960s, the TH had 10,000 students, making it the foremost of all German technical universities. With the foundation of philosophical and medical faculties in 1965 and 1966, respectively, the university became more "universal". The newly founded faculties in particular began attracting new students, and the number of students almost doubled twice from 1970 (10,000) to 1980 (more than 25,000) and from 1980 to 1990 (more than 37,000). Now, the average number of students is around 42,000, with about one third of all students being women. By relative terms, the most popular study-programs are engineering (57%), natural science (23%), economics and humanities (13%) and medicine (7%).
In December 2006, RWTH Aachen and the Sultanate of Oman signed an agreement to establish a private German University of Technology in Muscat. Professors from Aachen aided in developing the curricula for the currently five study-programs and scientific staff took over some of the first courses.
In 2007, RWTH Aachen was chosen as one of nine German Universities of Excellence for its future concept RWTH 2020: Meeting Global Challenges, earning it the connotation of being an elite university. However, although the list of universities honored for their future concepts mostly consists of large and already respected institutions, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research claimed that the initiative aimed at promoting universities with a dedicated future concept so they could continue researching on an international level.Having won funds in all three lines of funding, the process brought RWTH Aachen University an additional total funding of € 180 million from 2007-2011. The other two lines of funding were graduate schools, where the Aachen Institute for Advanced Study in Computational Engineering Science received funding and so-called "clusters of excellence", where RWTH Aachen managed to win funding for the three clusters: Ultra High-Speed Mobile Information and Communication (UMIC), Integrative Production Technology for High-wage Countries and Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass (TMFB).